How to Run Session Zero for a D&D Campaign

It’s been said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” That may be true, it’s truer if you forget to hold a session zero. Let’s discuss.

What is Session Zero?

Session Zero is the platform for everyone in the gaming group to express what they want out of their D&D campaign (or any rpg for that matter). The goal is to have everyone on the same page so they can have the best possible experience with the game. Your campaign could work without a session zero, but I think skipping it opens the door wider for failure.


Make no mistake. As a member of a D&D group, you are in a relationship. You’re building a relationship with both the DM and the other players. As with all relationships, communication is key. So set the expectations early on, and you will have a better chance of a successful game. And I define a successful game as one in which everyone enjoys being a part of the experience..


There are a ton of viable ways to run a session zero, but I hope my take gives you a few ideas you can leverage for your own campaign. 

Write an Agenda

You may remember our previous How to Structure Your D&D Session video where I compared a gaming session to a business meeting. I’ll link to it so you can check it out.

In the spirit of that comparison, the first thing I do is draft an agenda for the session.


Instead of providing you with specific topics to include on your agenda, I’ll provide some recommended categories you may want to consider. 



Icebreakers help the group get to know one another. There are a lot of different ways to do this, from basic Q&A to mini games. Anything that will spark engagement and discussion within the group.


Player favorites

By understanding your players’ favorite books, movies, genres, heroes, and villains, you may discover some ways to keep them engaged and interested during the game. It also lets the players know a little more about what the others at the table enjoy. 


Hard Limits & Soft Limits

Identifying Hard Limits and Soft Limits are an essential part of the session. It will allow you as a DM to understand each player’s limits in terms of content and story, but will also provide a safe environment to share this with the rest of the group. 


This should be clear for everyone, but it doesn’t have to take very long in the session. This category of discussion points should take as long as needed to make sure everyone has a chance to be heard.


But sometimes these things may be difficult to discuss with others. One best practice is implementing a “pause button” rule. During gameplay if anyone is ever feeling uncomfortable, they can call for pause to stop the game.


Group Choices

If you read my post about Developing the Theme of Your Campaign, you may remember that I like to provide a few potential campaign options for the group. By writing these up and sending them ahead of time, the group can vote on the campaign choice they like best.


Group choices also allow us to talk through the character creation. I like to cover my Character Prologue during session zero, but character creation in-session or offline. Just let them know what to expect.


After thinking through each of these categories, I write up a list of agenda topics accordingly.

Invite Your Players

This may seem pretty obvious, but it’s an essential step. If nobody can make the session, it won’t be that helpful.


So, once I have the agenda and campaign options, I need to schedule the session. I usually reach out to everyone to find out what works best for them. After we decide on a day and time that works for everyone, I send out the invite, agenda, and campaign choices.

Run the Session

Ok DM. This is your chance to set the stage for how you’re going to run your game. It may even be your chance to introduce a brand new player to D&D. That means it’s important to follow your agenda to ensure you are hitting all of the key topics you promised to discuss. 


But don’t forget to include a couple of other key elements to make the session inviting.


Make sure you allow time for introductions and table chat to help the group get to know one  another. You may have a variety of personality types, so try and engage with everyone to ensure they feel comfortable.


The Game Itself

If you have brand new players, include an overview of D&D and a minimal introduction to the rules. A little information about the campaign setting may also be necessary if it’s a change for the group.


Scheduling the Session

Are you planning for a weekly game? Monthly? What days and time work best? It’s important for the group to come up with a schedule that works best for everyone. 


One tip is to also include the average duration of your gaming session. This may change over time, but planning for a 2-hour gaming session is different from a 4-hour session. The players should have an idea of what they’re getting into.

Recap the Session

Before closing out the session, review all of the major decisions made by the group, and clear up any confusion or miscommunication. Since the purpose of the session was to get everyone on the same page. 


Additional follow-up can be done on a person-by-person basis, but make sure that you’ve answered anything that needs to be answered as a group

Take Session Notes

You covered some important stuff during session zero – don’t forget to write it down. Ideally, you’ll make notes during the session, but writing up a post-session note sheet will also work. Documenting the group’s choices, preferences, and limits is highly recommended.


As a DM, you can refer back to this information as the campaign progresses, but this is one case where sharing your session notes with players may be beneficial.

Put it into practice

Luckily, I recently ran a session zero for my livestream group, so you can see how I put this all into practice. I recommend jumping over to the Geek Philosophy YouTube channel to check it out.

Even if you don’t follow my tips exactly, give session zero a try. If you are able to at least set expectations and ensure everyone has a voice, you’re setting the game up for success.